Culture war, divided American politics and/or ideology concept.
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Susan Bigelow

A Stamford hedge fund manager and conservative Catholic culture warrior is setting up a PAC called “Parents Against Stupid Stuff,” which aims to run ads against the three right-wing boogeymen of 2022: critical race theory, sexual content in public school curriculum, and two trans girls being better than your kid at track.

And lo, on the third day, the culture wars came back to Connecticut, and they were just as dumb as always.

I hate even giving this kind of garbage space here, but since this guy is set to spend over a million bucks of his own money running cringey scare ads trying to convince voters that milquetoast millionaire Ned Lamont is a godless sex communist, it’s important to try and innoculate ourselves against it now.

Hysteria over critical race theory is already a non-starter here. Critical race theory, if you don’t know, is an academic term for a broad umbrella of different schools of thought that all have to do with examining the social and legal idea of race in the United States, and how that has played out over our history. Like any academic theory, it has its positives and negatives; I see it mainly as a way to try and understand and actually deal with this country’s very real and painful legacy of racism and white supremacy. But somehow the right wing got it into their heads that CRT was teaching six-year-olds to hate white people, or something along those lines, and it became An Issue. 

In the 2021 municipal elections, a right-wing, anti-critical race theory slate of candidates for school board grabbed the Republican nomination in Guilford, a well-to-do town that is about 88% non-Hispanic white. This made national news and was the cause of an awful lot of chest-pounding and hand-wringing. But on Election Day, Democrats blew out the GOP slate by a more than 2-1 margin. White suburban parents, supposedly the prime target of these kinds of campaigns, were not buying what the hard right was selling.

So much for that. What else ya got?

The second wedge issue this one-man PAC is trying to exploit is inappropriate sexual content being taught in classrooms. The example he gave was an incident in Enfield where an eighth-grade class was mistakenly given a lesson that used agreeing to pizza toppings as a metaphor for consent during sex.

It turns out that the eighth graders were supposed to get a similar assignment more appropriate for their age group, and it really does seem to have been an honest mistake. But some parents freaked out, and the right-wing keyboard warriors got a hold of the story and subjected the school employee who made the mistake to intense harassment, calling her a “pedophile” among other things.

That’s ugly and awful. And for what?

It gets me that not only is this the state that our politics has fallen to, but that so much of the outrage is coming from people my age. Parents in their 40s, huddle up. Think back to when you were in eighth grade in the late 1980s or early 1990s. Remember all the moral panic about sex back then? Remember how dumb it all seemed? 

That’s why so much of this outrage feels performative. Are you really angry, or did you just sense an opportunity to stick it to your cultural enemies? What a miserable bunch of hypocrites we’ve become. 

It’s still possible that this issue will have legs here, but I doubt it. Connecticut 2022 is not Virginia 2021, where Glenn Youngkin won partly based on turning parent frustration about masks and other school issues into votes. The mask mandates are gone, and they aren’t coming back. Beyond that, school curriculum is still such a local issue that it’s hard to translate it to the governor’s race.

And then there’s trans girls playing sports. Ah yes, the issue where nobody had a problem with it until it turned out that a very small number of trans girls are actually pretty fast. Oops! Sorry, they clearly should have known that equality is only extended as long as they don’t win.

But, if you remember, this issue came up already four years ago, and after a little bit of fuss it all died down again. If all the other times the culture warriors have tried to tear down trans people in this state haven’t worked, why would 2022 be any different?

And yet, there’s always the chance that it will be. Things are bad out there. Florida and Texas are leading the way with anti-LGBT legislation; Florida with a law banning any mention of LGBT families or issues in the early grades, and Texas authorized child abuse investigations of families who let their children transition. Those laws open the door to worse and worse.

I try to have faith that we see through this stuff here. I hope that we’ll do what we’ve done in the past and send right-wing extremists packing.

But I take nothing for granted.

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Susan Bigelow

Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.

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